German leaders have agreed to tighten the national coronavirus law, the government said Friday, in a move to hand Berlin more centralized power in the face of a stalemate over lockdown measures.
“Germany is in the middle of a third wave, so the federal government and the states have agreed to add to the national legislation,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer told reporters.
“The aim here is to create uniform national rules,” she said, adding that the law change would be put before cabinet next Tuesday.
Germany remains gripped by rising infection rates, despite cultural venues, restaurants and leisure facilities having been closed for months.
Currently, coronavirus measures are decided on in consultation with Berlin and – in theory – implemented by the federal states.
Yet regional and national leaders are divided over restrictions, with Merkel calling for a tighter lockdown as some regions and cities unilaterally ease restrictions.
With no sign of consensus, Demmer confirmed media reports that talks between Merkel and state premiers planned for Monday had been canceled.
The regular meetings have until now set policy for Germany’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic but have been marked by bitter disputes and spotty compliance in recent weeks.
Most notably, some states have not followed through on an agreement to row back on the easing of measures in areas where the seven-day incidence rate exceeds 100 cases per 100,000 people.
Demmer said the law change would help impose this “emergency brake” nationwide.
“The solution we have found was necessary because the emergency brake was being applied in very different ways,” she said.
Calls to change the law had been growing over the last week amid rising case numbers, and warnings from health authorities on Friday that a nationwide lockdown was needed to break the third wave.